Chapters 1-2: The Ghostly Soldiers

Did you know that Alice in Wonderland was written by a math teacher? Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), who wrote under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, taught at Oxford University in England, where he also wrote poetry, other stories and several math books.
In 1880, Carroll wrote A Tangled Tale, a series of math puzzles told in the form of short comedic stories. Each story was published in a magazine called The Monthly Packet, and readers were invited to mail in their answers. In the following edition, Carroll would give the answer, list the names of the people who had gotten it right and make some funny comments about people who had gotten it wrong.
The first puzzle in A Tangled Tale was about a pair of knights who walked at three miles per hour uphill, four miles per hour on level ground and six miles per hour downhill. Sound familiar? Lennie's two ghostly soldiers are a tribute to Carroll's knights.

Original illustration for the two knights Original illustration for "The Dead Reckoning"

Here's another problem from A Tangled Tale. This one is called, "The Dead Reckoning," and involves a set of five sacks brought onboard a ship. If you want to read the entire story, you'll have to find A Tangled Tale at your local library, but here's the math problem it contains:
There are five sacks, which are weighed two or three at a time.

Sack #1 and Sack #2 weigh 12 lbs. together.
Sack #2 and Sack #3 weigh 13½ lbs. together.
Sack #3 and Sack #4 weigh 11½ lbs. together.
Sack #4 and Sack #5 weigh 8 lbs. together.
Sack #1, Sack #3 and Sack #5 weigh 16 lbs. together.

What is the weight of each sack alone?
Click below to see how I worked it out.


Did you get the same answer?


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